FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — The former head of a Marine Corps brig testified Monday that she was shocked when the base commander asked for advance notice of any orders she planned to give regarding the confinement of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier charged with sending classified information to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
The request was surprising because brig commanders have sole authority to determine the custody status of detainees, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Denise Barnes said. She testified on the 10th day of a pretrial hearing at Fort Meade, near Baltimore, to determine whether the nine months Manning spent in tight confinement at Quantico, Va., amounted to illegal pretrial punishment, possibly warranting dismissal of his case.
Barnes was the 11th of 14 government witnesses. Lawyers plan to make their closing arguments when the hearing resumes Tuesday.
Barnes testified that Col. Daniel Choike, then garrison commander at Quantico, made the request after Barnes ordered in early March 2011 that Manning be stripped of his underwear each night as a suicide-prevention measure. Manning stood naked at attention the next morning, resulting in news coverage that embarrassed the military and heightened worldwide interest in his case.
Barnes said Choike called her to say that Lt. Gen. George Flynn, then the highest-ranking officer at Quantico, wanted her to run any orders involving Manning up the chain of command before executing them.
"I was kind of shocked," Barnes said. "The base commander does not control the brig OIC." The acronym stands for "officer in charge," which was Barnes' position.
Barnes said she never received any orders regarding Manning's confinement conditions. He continued to be stripped of his underwear at night until he was moved to medium-security pretrial confinement at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in April 2011.
Barnes acknowledged that nothing in the military corrections manual authorizes removing clothing from detainees who aren't on suicide watch. Manning was on less-restrictive "prevention of injury" status at the time, and remained so until he left Quantico.
Barnes was the brig commander during the last three months of Manning's confinement at Quantico. For all of his nine months there, he was held in maximum custody, with additional restrictions ostensibly aimed at preventing suicide or self-injury. The restrictions kept him confined to his cell at least 23 hours a day.
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